|Photo Kendra Bailey Morris|
Only recently, in my old age, have I come to love brussels sprouts. It's not that I ever disdained them, but enjoying them roasted, baked, steamed or casseroled was simply something my family never did. They were rarely on our dinner table, except maybe on Thanksgiving where they would be cooked until gray, soft and giving up the ghost, a la country-style, which not only made them unappealing to the eye and palate, but also the olfactory senses. Basically, overcooking them makes them stink like rotten eggs.
This is one of several reasons brussels sprouts get an undeserved bad rap in my opinion.
Brussels sprouts, which are a member of the cabbage family (hence, their cute, mini-cabbage appearance) can actually be quite tasty, especially when they're slow roasted in a medium-high oven revealing all that gorgeous, sweet caramelization. They're super healthy, too, and are loaded with Vitamin A, C as well as folic acid and iron. After eating a plate of sprouts, I am actually energized, much in the same way I feel after downing a big bowl of collard greens (and of course, plenty of pot likker).
When it comes to cooking your sprouts, all you need to do is toss them with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, add a little salt and freshly cracked pepper and roast them in a 375 or 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so, turning them frequently, so they brown and all sides. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar right at the last 5 minutes of cooking for some extra punch and them serve them up hot. Even die-hard brussels sprouts haters can't resist them prepared like this.
If you're looking for even more bang for your flavor buck, toss in some cooked and crumbled bacon and some mild blue cheese (or goat cheese) and you'll have a fantastic combo that works well as a first course salad or a warm side next to a plate of roasted chicken, grilled pork loin or a hearty New York Strip.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Blue Cheese
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (with 1/2 tablespoon reserved)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (I like to be generous with the pepper)
1 1/2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar (with 1/2 tablespoon reserved)
1/4 cup cooked and crumbled bacon (more if you're a bacon lover)
2-3 ounces mild blue cheese, crumbled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In large pan, toss the brussels sprouts with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the sprouts out in the pan in a single layer and roast for 25 or so minutes or until nice and caramelized. Be sure to rotate the pan and toss the sprouts around a bit during the cooking process so they are evenly browned.
During the last few minutes of cooking add the tablespoon of balsamic and toss well. Then return sprouts to the oven for another 3-4 minutes.
Remove sprouts to a large bowl and toss again with the reserved 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon balsamic, bacon and blue cheese. Top with additional blue cheese and another sprinkle of black pepper just before serving.
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